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The Truth Behind Wedding Inspo

Easily one of the most frustrating conversations I have with you guys (for both me and you) is the one where I have to bridge the gap between what they see on Pinterest and Instagram and what is realistic with their budget. So many times you guys come to me with these grandiose visions for your wedding day picked up directly from Pinterest and Instagram only to have budgets that don't match. And it's not your fault! Stylized editorial shoots are made to be aspirational but don't give viewers any insight as to the cost to replicate the design. You have absolutely zero working knowledge of the actual numbers behind the things you're pinning and saving on these platforms. So let's demystify the pins & help you see more clearly the actual costs behind your fave wedding inspiration. Let's start with some basic facts about catering proposals & venue inclusions. 9/10 your catering proposal does not include a plate or charger at the place setting when your guests sit down. If your meal is plated, your courses will be served on a plate, the plate will not be at the table when guests are seated. If you're serving a station or buffet dinner, plates will be at the stations. The place settings that your catering proposal does include are usually very basic silver or gold fork & knife and a clear water glass. If you add on tableside wine service is when you'll start to see wine glasses added to the table. Similarly, the dinnerware included in your package is usually a basic, white dinnerware set. Any colored glass, modern-looking silverware sets, vintage dinnerware sets, charger plates, etc. are usually additional rentals. Most venues have one or 2 types of chairs that they have inhouse that are included in your rental. If your venue includes a gold or silver Chiavari chair but you have your heart set on an acrylic ghost chair - this will be extra (usually around $20-$30 per chair) Most venues have either rectangular banquet tables (usually 6 or 8ft) and/or round tables (usually 60 or 72 inches). Some venues include those beautiful farmhouse tables, but if they do not, you'd need to rent those to bring them in & they're not cheap because they're expensive to buy, but also expensive to store because of their size and require a ton of labor to transfer because they're heavy AF. Dance floors are not usually white. They are usually wooden pieces that fit together. To make them white (or any color) requires vinyl coverings (added expense) and time (added labor). Linen packages with venues vary but usually range either from a standard offering of white, ivory or black linen to possibly any color of standard poly-cotton (you know this as a regular looking table cloth or napkin). Floral prints, lace overlays, velvet, sequins, etc are not usually included and can range anywhere from $25-100+ per table depending on size and design. Family-style meals require larger tables (and usually smaller centerpieces) so that there is room at the table for all of the dishes and for guests to eat. Now let's talk about floral: Hanging installations are expensive. IDC how "minimal" you want it, it takes A LOT of time (labor) it takes to hang installations above every table (or half, or a third). It takes precision to hang an installation from the ceiling and make sure it is straight and then to duplicate it several times over. This increased the number of people your florist needs to pay to be onsite because simultaneously your ceremony needs to be set, as well as your centerpieces. Then, depending on how much time you have included for set up in your contract, this number may only grow as the florist works within a 3-hour window given by the venue to do 15 hours worth of work. ALSO, depending on the layout, the tables might not even be allowed to be set prior to the installation because they can't work over a set table. So many factors go into quoting installation work & it's not cheap. If you find yourself searching FB groups for "affordable" florists, you can go ahead & cross installations off your list of wants. Those large bohemian bouquets you keep pinning are going to run you about $300-$400. "Just a greenery runner" is not necessarily a budget-friendly choice. If you're wanting those intricate garlands - they are hand-sewn and take hours (labor) to create each one. They also require a bunch of product to get the fullness they'll need to be to have impact & then depending on the length of the table, that number only grows. They are not cheap. If you find yourself saying "just a little greenery", you'll need to have something underneath the greenery to visually "lift" it off of the table (think runner) otherwise it will just blend into the table. Full centerpieces will often require wider tables (not included in your venue) in order to make space for guests to actually sit and eat. This is especially true if you're serving family-style. Most of your venues will require your candles to be enclosed in glass. Glass hurricanes are not cheap, especially for pillar candles because they are so tall. Even the most basic ceremony piece is going to run you a minimum of $600. Those lush ceremony hoops, even with MOSTLY greenery are going to start around $1500 and increase with the amount of floral. Stems/buds at each place setting will run about $2-$10 per place setting. Labor is not just the time the floral team is onsite. It's the number of hours they spend putting together the order with the wholesaler, it's the number of hours they spend processing the floral order when it comes in so the flowers survive your wedding day. It's the number of hours they spend pre-event assembling at their studio. It's the number of hours they spend loading the truck and unloading it at the venue. It's the number of hours they spend breaking down and cleaning up petals off the floor of your venue at the end of the night. It's the number of hours they spend loading and unloading the truck again post-event and cleaning the rentals and storing them again. And now let's discuss stationery & calligraphy: Basic invitation packages do not include belly bands and a thousand extra inserts and a wax seal and a bit of crushed lavender and a velvet envelope liner for good measure. EACH OF THESE THINGS ARE EXTRA. To have your invitations hand calligraphed (is that a word? Help me out calligraphy friends lol) is also an additional cost. Go follow some Calligraphers on Instagram and see how much time (labor) it takes to handwrite the front of one envelope. And then multiply that by 100 envelopes and add in return addresses and return envelopes with mailing & return addresses. Place cards, menus, table numbers & signage are all additional costs and will vary based on the design & materials required. Anything handpainted (watercolor fans, I'm talking to you) is going to cost you your right arm. That shit takes forever. The truth is your dream Pinterest wedding will probably run you about $100K. Next week I'll pop in with the actual cost of some of my favorite table designs from my own real weddings and styled editorial shoots. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite money-saving wedding trends.

How to Downsize Your Coronavirus Wedding

Well, it's official... Yesterday afternoon Gov Pritzker released his plan to reopen the state with gatherings of up to 50 people being allowed in phase 4, but phase 5 of a fully reopened state not being on the table until either A. a vaccine is widely available B. a highly effective treatment is widely available or C. No new cases for an extended length of time. That being said, the reality of being able to host an event over 50 people in 2020 or even early 2021 is unlikely. The truth is, we don't know how long it will take to meet the requirements that allow us into Phase 5, which means weddings of over 50 people in the foreseeable future is not likely. Many 2020 couples have chosen to postpone & there's a ton of resources out in wedding land on how to do that well & efficiently, but what's a couple to do if they want to host their wedding on their original date - just on a smaller scale (if legally allowed of course)? Here's your step by step plan to downsizing your Coronavirus wedding. Step 1: Reach out to your venue. Find out if they will be allowing small weddings once we reach Phase 4. Step 2: Reach out to your caterer (or combine this with Step 1 if your venue is providing catering) & ask if they'll work with you to lower food & beverage minimums. A few notes here: You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Be kind. Your vendors don't owe you anything. (Just like I don't believe couples owe vendors anything) They do not HAVE to make exceptions to their contracts. Most wedding pros are happy to work with couples to make the necessary adjustments, but please understand, we did not ask for this either & we are all doing our best to keep our doors open to make it to the next wedding season. Be reasonable. If your contracted minimum is $30K & your caterer says they're not willing to lower it to $10K, understand that it's a $20K difference in their bottom line. Lowering your guest count should automatically lower your labor costs, so that should help some even if they aren't willing to lower your F&B minimum. Perspective is everything. If your caterer is either unwilling to lower your minimum or is unable to lower it as much as you would like, consider the upside of the fun you'll get to have with the culinary experience with a lower guest count. Luxe meals, lavish late-night snacks, extra courses, premium bar, butler passed Prosseco are all options to upgrade your dining experience to meet your minimums with a small guest count. Choosing to host your wedding with a smaller guest count is a choice, just as cancelling your wedding is a choice or postponing your wedding is a choice. All of these choices are yours to make, but they do each have their own financial implications and one of those implications may be still spending a pretty penny on catering for 35 guests. Step 3: Once you've reached an agreement with your caterer on the new F&B minimum, request a contract addendum for you both to sign. It should clearly lay out your new minimum and your adjusted payment details. Step 4: Repeat steps 2 & 3 with your florist. Same notes apply about being reasonable with an addition: your florist has extremely hard costs! If you're downsizing less than 45ish days out from your wedding, expect that they won't be able to lower your contracted amount. Step 5: Reach out to your vendor team to find out how many people they will have onsite for the wedding day. The 50 person gathering cap includes all staff. So DJ, photographer, videographer, catering staff, officiant, venue staff, etc. Plus you & the wedding party. Realistically, you're probably only looking at being able to have about 30 people in attendance given the total number of staff onsite. You can always your vendors if there are ways to decrease the number of people onsite. Maybe your photographer is willing to take the 2nd shooter out of your package. Maybe with the lowered guest count, your DJ doesn't need an assistant onsite, etc. Step 6: Review your guest list and choose who will be invited to attend. This is not going to be a fun conversation, but it's the necessary next step. Step 7: Call the guests who have been cut. Yes, I said it... CALL! If you're uninviting someone to your wedding, they deserve a phone call. This is not something you need to stress about. Everyone knows what is going on, but they still deserve a phone call letting them know the decision you've made and tell them that you would have loved to have them there. Step 8: Get creative about how you can make the most out of your new vision. There are so many amazing innovative services coming out of the industry that you can bring into your wedding to create an amazing experience for your guests and still have the celebration you've been waiting for... even if it's not the way you originally pictured it. Fun example: Our friends at Cage & Aquarium have launched a live stream experience for you to allow your guests to experience your wedding from home. BONUS IDEA: I am totally stealing this from our friends at Room 1520, but talk to your venue about the possibility of hosting your celebration in waves where you have 30 guests from 2-4, then close down for an hour for cleaning and bring in 30 more guests from 5-7, then close for an hour and another group of 30 from 9-11pm. Pro Tip: If you and your venue find a way to make this work, change your catering format to being a cocktail style reception verses a seated dinner. There you have it, 8 simple (not easy) steps to downsizing your Coronavirus wedding. Are you planning to host your wedding on it's original date?

6 Ways Coronavirus Will Change Weddings

The impact that the Coronavirus pandemic has had on events is not only unprecedented, but also unexpected. As a professional planner, I spend my days thinking through details & ripple effects of choices. And if you had told me in December that I’d spend most of the last 3 weeks coaching and counseling couples from across the world via my COVID-19 Weddings Facebook group through impossible decisions of whether or not to postpone their wedding, when to postpone to, what they’re entitled to in terms of refunds or waived fees, how to communicate changes to guests, and rescheduling much of my own Spring & Summer wedding season, I honestly wouldn’t have believed you. Hindsight being what it is, it’s obvious now that a global pandemic would send this type of shockwave through the events industry, but no one imagined it would ever happen. So as 2020 couples scramble to reschedule their weddings and exhaust their creative energies in effort to make the most of a down right shitty situation, I’ve been analyzing the blowback this pandemic will have on the wedding industry into 2021 and beyond. Here are the 6 ways I think weddings will change because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Financial investment comfort zones will shrink. Besides the economic impact this pandemic is already causing, engaged couples in the beginning stages of planning are watching from the sidelines as Covid couples lose thousands of dollars. Whether it’s from vendors charging rescheduling fees, losing deposits because of vendors being booked on their rescheduled date AND having to pay to replace those vendors, or deciding to call off the entire big wedding and elope, there are many couples losing a lot of money. Future couples, at least for the foreseeable future, are not going to be comfortable investing the kind of money they have in weddings over the last several years. Guests lists will shrink. One of the biggest unknowns at this time is how long we’ll see strict regulations on the size of gatherings. As of today, our federal government is allowing gatherings no larger than 10 people to slow the spread of the virus. There’s much debate within the Wedding Industry on whether or not we’ll even see a 2020 wedding season because of extended restrictions on large gatherings. The truth is, no one knows the answer to this yet, but because of the uncertainty, couples are going to be limiting their guest counts to - my guess - under 100 guests - and even an increasing trend in micro-weddings (20 guests or less). Wedding party sizes will shrink. With smaller guests lists, it only stands to reason that wedding party sizes will shrink as well. Additionally, with so many travel plans being impacted, wedding attendants are dropping like flies from the current line ups, so couples will likely raise their bar on who they ask to stand next to them. Length of engagements with shrink. One of the most tragic choruses in my Facebook group is couples who have been planning their wedding for 2+ years now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel only to have to postpone. They are heartbroken and defeated. After so much time and anticipation, their wedding is now just a mirage and they have miles left to walk to their oasis. Newly engaged couples are going to see this tragedy played out in blogs and news articles and are going to shorten their engagements. And with smaller budgets and guests lists, this will be easy to accomplish Weddings will become less complicated. After watching the hoops Covid couples have had to jump through to reschedule their weddings, future couples are going to be more selective about the choices they make when planning their weddings & go for a more minimalist approach to wedding planning. Instead of the "have and do it all" mentality, couples will only include the things that hold value and importance to their day. Time to book will lengthen. After seeing Covid couples shocked by the policies in the contracts they signed, future couples will take longer to make decisions. There will be more couples reading their contracts thoroughly before signing and asking questions to make sure they fully understand the agreement, especially as it pertains to their protection from a future pandemic. This will require Wedding Pros to understand their own contracts thoroughly and be able to explain them & educate couples on why these policies exist, as well as know which policies they are willing to make exceptions to and which are non-negotiable. Regardless of how long local shutdowns last, the Coronavirus pandemic has left its mark on the Wedding Industry & we'll be living in its remains for years to come. If you're a couple trying to navigate wedding planning in the aftermath of Coronavirus, I'd love to help give you a starting point. Schedule your complimentary planning strategy call here.

COVID-19 & Your Wedding

Wow, you guys. What a week. I'm going to echo what a lot of Wedding Pros are saying. I never would have thought I'd spend any portion of my career, or my life, needing to lead people through a pandemic or national crisis like I am now. From being a mom, trying to explain to my girls who are too young to understand why we're not allowed to go to school or church or play with friends to being a Wedding Planner who has been trusted to guide families through the choices they encounter when planning their wedding, which now include conversations of postponement and cancellation. This week I have spent hours having conversations either trying to give some sense of peace to couples that haven't been affected yet and helping lead couples that are. Fortunately, my next wedding is 10 weeks away, meaning as of this moment, CDC and State mandates haven't required postponement from any LRE couples, however we all know that there are minute to minute changes with the severity of the virus and actions & regulations our government leaders are putting into place to keep us all safe. Here are the recommendations I'm giving to my couples: May couples: It’s time regretfully time to make a decision. CDC & State mandates are effective currently through May 10th and will quite possibly be extended. For late May couples, I'd recommend having a decision locked & loaded, but don't pull the trigger quite yet. Review your contracts carefully and understand that implications of cancellation or postponement.

June couples: have a decision in their back pocket about what they will do if mandates are loosened but still affect gatherings of their size. For example, if the state loosens the ban to 50 people. Will you cut your guest list or will you postpone?

July-September couples: take a beat, but start wrapping your mind around the potential options, but don’t start losing sleep. 4th Q 2020 & 2021 couples: Your favorite wedding pros need your support more than ever. Most of us are small businesses & cancellations of this magnitude are Earth shattering to us. Book your contracts, pay your deposits, keep planning! & Please be patient in delays in responses. We are doing our best to field questions from panicked couples, other pros & trying to sort through our own personal & professional confusion about this uncharted territory. And for the love of GOD, when insurance companies begin allowing consumers to buy new policies again, PLEASE get event insurance. The reality is that most insurance companies have clauses that protect them from paying out in the event of a pandemic, however there are plenty of other wedding related financial disasters that can be prevented by insurance. & incredibly shameless plug, if you don't already, please work with a Wedding Planner. Even if it's not me. Our couples are not alone in this! Now for some real talk on financial implications of cancellation & postponement: Cancellation: Please don't. I mean, I am always always always team couple. It's why I do what I do. I love supporting you and being your guide and having your back. But the reality is that cancellations will devastate our industry. Cancellations will result in the loss of million of dollars across Chicago alone that go towards feeding families and paying rent. At the end of the day you gotta do what you gotta do, but if you cancel, please know that you are not entitled to and will probably not receive any refunds and quite possibly will still owe additional payment. The simple fact of the matter is that your payments have already been spent. They've paid my rent, my car payment, and daycare tuition. They've also paid for my email service and my client portal and my own business insurance that will too likely not protect me from losses from this catastrophe. Postponements: Some of you will have to. I know that & I promise your Wedding Industry is hell bent on doing our best to accommodate you. This isn't anymore your fault than it is ours. We know that. But please understand that there is no right way for us to handle this situation & you need to just accept whatever means your vendors have decided is right for them in moving forward. If that means they are allowing rebookings only on certain days (Fridays & Sundays for example), only allowing rebookings in 2020 or in off months. If they are charging change of scope fees or reschedule fees or charging for the rate difference between when you booked and the rebooking. Our calendar availability is limited and our rates are calculated based on our expenses and our availability to take weddings and the fact of the matter is that accommodating you means the likely loss of business. Some will be lenient. Some will not. But we all are just trying to survive right now and the shoot-straight-with-me answer you have come to expect from me is that it was your choice to have a luxury experience & these contracts you've signed are business agreements. And just like you are not at fault for COVID-19, neither are we. And just as you would expect your employer to pay you to do over work, most of your vendors will expect you to as well and they are not wrong for that. As I tell my preschoolers, you do not have to like it, but you do have to respect it. Any couple who is needing to postpone, I would recommend getting a list of available dates from their venue and sending out a Doodle poll to their entire vendor team to HOPEFULLY find a date that works for everyone. Once you do that, then ask what their policy is for the date change & adjust your budget accordingly. Now some hope: This whole thing sucks. Just absolutely sucks. We all feel it. We cry too. My Facebook groups are filled with questions & vents & meltdowns from YOUR wedding pros who are completely brokenhearted about this situation. And I am sorry. Sorry that you are experiencing this tragedy. Sorry that this day that is supposed to be so special has turned out to be anything but. However, just as with all tragedy, in time, with proper grieving, this will all be a distant memory... eventually. You will still get married, whether in the way you imagined or not. And years from now you will have had thousands of other experiences together both joyful & sorrowful. So goes the ebbs and flows of life. But just as light does not exist without darkness, joy does not exist without sorrow, so to be grateful for joy means being equally grateful for sorrow. But as the saying goes... this too shall pass. Now for couples who are needing help navigating changes or just needing a shoulder to cry on, please take advantage of our complimentary strategy call for all engaged couples.

My Favorite Money Saving Wedding Trends

We all know weddings are expensive. When I talk with newly engaged couples & ask them what their number one concern is about their wedding it's always the bottom line. No one & I mean NO ONE wants to spend the cost of a college education on their wedding. And more and more I'm seeing couples who just won't & they are getting super creative in effort to cut costs. Here are some of my absolute fave new wedding tends that'll save you cold, hard cash. Intimate weddings. My average guest count in 2019 was 145 guests. A huge decline from my average of 225 in 2018. Small guest counts are the number 1 easiest way to cut your wedding budget and honestly I AM HERE FOR IT. Besides the moola it saves, I've found the smaller the guest count, the less stressed my couple is. Private ceremonies. Cocktail celebrations. I have no idea what creative genius came up with this idea, but I LOVE IT & I've had 4 couples so far this year call me with this vision. The concept is that they'll have a very private ceremony including only their very nearest and dearest, some at City Hall and some in a small garden venue or something similar. Then host private meal with those people (think rehearsal dinner) and then move on to an absolute rager celebration later that night with light bites, drinks & music with everyone they want to dance the night away with. These couples are also kicking all traditions like dances & speeches and making the entire night about celebrating. The beauty of this route is that it'll usually save on the number of hours you need certain vendors for, the number of hours you need the venue for, but also the catering bill going the route of heavy passed or stationed apps instead of a full blown seated dinner, plus your labor costs associated with catering & rental cost of linens & place settings. Plus, I think it kind of creates this wind up throughout the day of super special & intimate to the best party you'll ever throw. Brunch weddings. This trend is not only delicious, but practical AF. Brunch weddings save you cash for a few reasons. You can usually negotiate a lower rate on your venue since you're not taking up real estate during peak wedding hours. I also think that Sunday brunch weddings make the most sense for taking advantage of a venues Sunday wedding discount. You might also be able to negotiate a discount with a vendor that could take more than one wedding that day (spoiler alert: a Wedding Planner could not). & you can easily limit the bar options with much less push back than you could an evening wedding. Create a custom Mimosa, Bellini, or Bloody Mary bar with maybe a beer and wine option as well & your guests are set for 11am. Small or no bridal party. I've talked about it before, but your bridal party is expensive. We've had several couples over the last year opt or tiny or no bridal party & it always helps them save some dough. Bud vase centerpieces. Ok, so this is a go to design trend of mine for couples looking to make some cuts to their floral budget. Bud vases are so cute, but they use so much less product than a full blown arrangement & you can usually purchase bud vases super cheap at thrift shops. Deconstructed centerpieces. Another design trend I am loving. The beauty of deconstructed centerpieces is that they usually don't require a vessel to hold the flowers. & my floral friends are going to write me hate mail, but this is also an option that usually can be done wholesale and not require work with a florist if budget is tight. What's your favorite cash saving wedding trend? For your own custom wedding planning guidance, schedule a complimentary planning strategy call here!

What All Engaged Couples Can Learn from the Sudden Closure of Noah's Event Venue

This past Friday, I'm doing what I usually do during my morning cup of coffee, scrolling FB, scanning headlines & posts for anything interesting to take a deeper look at when I read a post in a Wedding Planner FB Group I'm in that made my stomach sink. "If you have clients booked at ANY of the Noah's Event Venues, they have permanently closed all locations." Well, this was the absolute shittiest start to my Friday because we have a lovely couple getting married there this May. So I furiously started Googling & calling every number I could find trying to get some insight as to whether or not their FULLY PAID balance would be refunded, as well as looking for venues with availability & that meet their requirements to relocate their wedding to. While these situations are not common, they are also not impossible. In fact, something similar happened with Alfred Angelo a few years ago, leaving brides & bridesmaids with fully paid dresses that would not be delivered. So what can you learn from this? 1. You need insurance & you need it early. I used to feel that wedding insurance was optional or only really necessary if there were legal reasons for it (for example, a BYOB venue that you could potentially be held liable as the alcohol provider in the event of a drinking and driving accident), but when the rumblings of a Noah's bankruptcy started to sound over the last year, I made the call to my couple & told them to get insurance & get it quickly & I AM SO GLAD I DID. I got this text from my bride yesterday: "I LOVE YOU! Seriously thank God for you! We are getting our money back in full from the insurance company." Which is a completely different song from hundreds of other affected couples that are out thousands of dollars & looking at the very real possibility of having to cancel their wedding. It's tragic. An event like this is unfortunate, but it won't be as hard if you're financially protected. 2. Have an emergency fund for your wedding. This Noah's fiasco is going to have a much larger ripple couples than just their wedding venue. They may have catering deposits that they'll lose, cake deposits, they may have to reschedule their wedding & lose their photographer who is now unavailable. Our couple was weeks away from their invitations going to print & would have had to reorder (& pay again) for those. Just like life, it's wise to have an emergency fund just in case. 3. Join some local wedding planning groups on Facebook. I, along with many other Planners & Couples found out about the Noah's Event Venue Closure from Facebook. Noah's corporate office handled the closure horribly, but thanks to good 'ol social media, many couples were able to get a heads up on the news before it hit... well, the evening news. 4. Working with a Wedding Planner has benefits you wouldn't expect it to have. This is the first & Lord I pray the LAST time I ever have to encounter this type of situation, but my couple, who started working with me 18 months ago, never dreamed that they'd be here today, touring venues for relocation 4 months before their wedding. But guess what? They have no for a single second had to navigate this shit show alone. I personally delivered the news about their venue closure and had already reached out to other venues to start gathering availability & pricing before they even knew. They also had a copy of their contract at the top of their inbox to send to their insurance company & someone to calmly & unemotionally tell them their next steps. Whether it's in a Wedding Management (AKA Day of Coordination) capacity or a Full Planning Experience, partnering with a professional Wedding Planner can help you navigate unexpected storms. We are so heartbroken to read of the thousand of couples being displaced from Noah's Event Venues across the country. If you're affected by this closure, please feel free to schedule a complimentary Strategy Call with our team to get some guidance on how to move forward.

7 Parts of Wedding Planning That Are a Pain in the Ass, but Have to be Done

Were you one of the 100K people that got engaged this holiday season & quickly went from being super stoked to plan your wedding to realizing that it's going to be a huge pain in the ass? (this is a completely arbitrary statistic used only to make a point). If you are, you're not alone & today we're going to stop beating around the bush & help you see the annoyances coming. Here are our 7 parts of the wedding planning process that are a complete & total pain in the ass, but are unfortunately all necessary tasks to complete. 1. Deciding on a budget. Any wedding budget whether it's $5K or $500K is a lot of money. Add in the fact that you're going to have to have some uncomfy convos with each other about money that you might not have had before & some uncomfy convos with your fam... It sucks. Buuuuut it's necessary to pay for all the things. 2. Deciding on a guest list. Oh boy. There's so many layers of pain to this task. First of all, every single person you invite has a dollar amount attached to them, but you also don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Then you've got parents who want to invite their friends & if they're helping pay for the wedding, it gets even trickier. But before you can even start shopping for a venue, you need to have some idea of how many people you are inviting. PRO TIP: if you're wanting a smaller wedding, book a venue with a capacity limit of where you'd want to max out & use that as your excuse. 3. Picking a venue. So this is one of those tasks that is so much fun, but also just the fucking worst. It's the first contractual decision you need to make (besides if you decide to work with a planner for full service) & there are so many damn variables that all affect the end cost. Does the venue include table & chairs or will you need to rent them through your caterer? Is catering provided through the venue, is there a list of approved caterers or do they have an open catering policy? What about weather? Will you need a tent or some other last minute decision that might need to be made that will come with an added cost? What about bar? Do you have to get your bar package through your caterer or can you BYOB? What about the layout? Will it require a flip? Do they require insurance? But alas, you need a physical location to host your wedding so it has to be done. 4. Selecting a caterer. Again another task that is a lot of fun because FOOD, but it can be extraordinarily overwhelming and difficult because it is by and large the most money you'll spend on your wedding & there's so many damn options that all have different price tags. Trying to narrow in on the right caterer can be v v sucky. But being a good host requires you to feed people. 5. Receiving the initial floral proposal. Oh man, I love getting into the pretty part of wedding planning, but the first proposal you'll receive from your florist will most likely knock you on your ass because who knew flowers could cost so much?? (We'll be doing another post specifically about this soon) I guess this one isn't a NEED but we all want a pretty wedding, right? 6. Receiving RSVPs. I'm just going to come out and say it - wedding guests are the worst. Their the bane of my existence and will be yours too. Some people are not going to send back their cards & have you chasing after them for an answer, some will send them back late, some will lose them, some will change their minds & make you change the seating chart you already spent hours working on & some will RSVP and not show up because apparently that's acceptable, but we need a guest count so we know how food to order so... 7. The night before the wedding. Well meaning family (& Aunt Karen) will all be calling & texting you with a thousand questions that you've definitely already answered a thousand times, for example in the reminder email you sent out yesterday about the time & location of the rehearsal dinner. PRO TIP: This one doesn't have to be this way. Give your phone to someone else & tell them to deal. Planning your wedding is a very exciting time, but it's also a giant piece of shit task that at times will make you seriously consider eloping, but I have to meet a newly married couple that didn't feel like it was all worth it.

5 Things That Make a Great Getting Ready Venue

So you’ve got all the details planned: a great venue, the photographer you’ve been lowkey IG stalking for the last year, all of the pretty details, but have you been intentional about selecting a great getting ready venue? It might seem like a below the line type of priority, but we’ve seen many couples frustrated on their wedding day because they didn’t put a ton of thought into the practicality of where they were getting ready. Here are the 5 things we think make a great getting ready venue: Space - We’ve had dozens of couples book a standard hotel room for their getting ready venue & nearly every single time, they’re disappointed. It’s just not big enough. When you consider that you’ll have anywhere between 5-10+ people filtering in and out of your room all morning, plus photographers & videographers, your Wedding Planner, and your hair and make up artists… it’s a lot of people. Then add in all of your wedding party’s crap is going to take up, the hair & make up stations, the photographer’s bag of goodies, our emergency kit, & food for everyone. And just for good measure, the heat that will be produced from all of the movement and styling tools? The splurge for a suite is well worth it. Light - Even if just for hair & make up, you want great natural light. But also consider all of the photos that will be taken in this room of you & your wedding party getting ready, your pretty detail shots of your dress & such, & for my brides out there: the photos of you getting in your dress… lot’s of natural light is a must. Location - Be smart about the location of your getting ready venue. While your home might be free, getting from your apartment in Lincoln Park to your venue in the South Loop at noon on a Saturday is going to be a nightmare. We recommend selecting a getting ready venue near your venue & then selecting your photo locations as landmarks nearby. Photo Ops - This one is two-fold. Look for great photo ops physically inside/around your getting ready venue for your bridal portraits, 1st look, etc. but also great locations to use for your wedding party photos nearby. Hospitality - So this one isn’t really a must, but if you’re going to spend the money honey, make it worth it! Book your getting ready venue somewhere that has a hospitality team. One that you can call for champagne or room service & one with a a great housekeeping team that can come tidy up so you’re not coming back to stale muffins and flat Prosseco on your wedding night. So, no, a world class getting ready venue is not technically a necessity, but there are so many reasons to consider the extra investment. Need more wedding morning tips? Check out our post on our Top 8 Tips for the Most Amazing Wedding Morning

How to Plan a Kick Ass Wedding for Under $40K

Most newly engaged couples feel defeated with the belief that planning their dream wedding will be too expensive and too difficult. Here are some of our favorite tips on how to plan a kick ass wedding for under $40K. Keep your guest count low. The number one factor in the cost of your wedding is the number of people who attend. Your catering and bar packages will be per person, every table is an added $100-250+ in centerpiece cost, even your DJ package can be affected by the number of guests in attendance since a higher guest count requires more sound equipment. But how low is low enough? There’s no magic number here, but our clients who have been the most successful at keeping their total spend under $40K have had guest counts under 150. Decide on your priorities. To keep your wedding at or under $40K in and around Chicago is going to require some compromise. You will not be able to have all the things. I know it stings a little to read, but I promise you, if you’re intentional about deciding on your priorities and sticking to them, it’ll be far easier to avoid shiny object syndrome & stay on budget. I’ve written a lot of posts both on the blog & IG on how to set your priorities, but whatever method you choose, I recommend deciding firmly on a top 3 and a bottom 3. That way when shiny object come up, if it’s on that bottom 3 list, the answer is a hard pass. Here is an example of one our past couples’ top 3 & bottom 3: Top 3 Food Guest Experience Design Bottom 3 Fashion Music Favors Here’s how that translated into our spending: We made food part of the experience for the guests & created interactive stations for them to participate in throughout the night. Apps were hand passed, dinner was filled with action stations (including a Sushi station), dessert was a sweets bar that included to-go bags for later, we brought in an ice cream cart for the last part of the evening & brought in Jets pizza for guests to take as drunk food on the way out. Other experiences included a Caricaturist and an interactive experience with the design through the invitations which had a velvet liner to them. Alternatively, our bride bought her dress off the rack at Nordstroms, hired a DJ with a very basic package and didn’t spend money on favors. Your power is in setting these priorities first. Hire your vendors in the correct order. We personally believe there is a right order to book your vendors in. Your venue or Planner will always be your first hire. A Planner is the only vendor you can hire without a date and you can’t get a date without booking the venue. If photography is on your top 3, then hire your photographer next. The most popular ones book up quickly. Then book your catering before doing anything else. Why? Your catering will be most significant total spend you have for your wedding. If you nail this number down early, then you have the power of knowing what’s left and making smart spends from there. We have a couple we’re working with now that all planning has haulted until we make a final decision on a caterer because I cannot intelligently advise them on how to design their wedding or if they can afford some of their B level preference vendors until I know what their catering total looks like. Then book based on the priorities you set. Want a moving wedding film? Book your Cinematographer next. Is design the most important thing to you? Great, start working through that vision with your florist and get final numbers decided on before moving down the list. Be willing to think outside the box. We have 2 couples last year that opted out of working with a traditional event caterer. One catered from their favorite restaurant and the restaurant provided servers and one opted for drop of catering from their fave taco spot. In that case we hired an event staffing company to provide servers, bartenders, & staff for setup & tear down. It took a little creativity but they both spent less than half of what most of my couples do working with an event caterer. We offered that option up to another couple who wanted to make sure that the chefs and serving staff were used to working events so the experience for their guests would be flawless. Again… goes back to priorities. We’ve even had clients book their venue off of Peer Space, which has saved them some cash. Work with a Planner. This is not just a shameless plug. (although, while I have your attention, HIRE US!) But for reals. Planners do this all the time. We know all of the options and the effects of choosing those options, like if the space you booked on Peerspace doesn’t include tables & chairs, where to get those items and how much they’re going to cost. We also know a thing or two about getting creative. One couple last year spent about $45 per table on centerpieces (much lower than our $100-$250 average) because we were able to help them creatively express their vision while staying in budget. We also usually know which bridal boutiques are having trunk shows and which stationers give complimentary return addressing for being a referral of ours. We also know where it is really important NOT to cut the budget (event staff, photo/video coverage hours for example). I know many Planners, that have paid for themselves just in the money they have saved their clients, either in creative solutions, or avoiding last minute fiasco charges. Planning a wedding under $40K in Chicago might seem like an impossible task, but with these tips, you’re well on your way to having your dream wedding on budget. Feeling like you went from newly engaged & excited to shocked & overwhelmed faster than you can say “I do”? If you have, you’re not alone. Most newly engaged couples feel defeated with the belief that planning their dream wedding will be too expensive and too difficult. We have a process to help you plan your wedding so you can get back to being excited again! Schedule an introduction call to learn more. "So you think about looking at something else, but you have to have a date, and you don’t know budget, and you don’t know anything else and you want to scream! I was at that point, and I did a search for wedding planners and enter the Lillian Rose Events team. The way they put my mind at ease about yes our budget is doable, and the time line was doable (about a year) and we could get going right away. Alexis helped us to stay on budget, find budget options for us, and helped make our vision cohesive and beautiful. I never would have thought some of the things that were at our wedding could have been there on our budget, and it was perfect! Do yourselves a favor, hire their team, then start planning the day of your dreams together- she will make sure it’s all you wanted and more!' -Ashley

An Open Letter to Wedding Guests

Dear Wedding Guests, The last few weeks I've been tackling my grievances with the wedding industry. I started with the industry itself in our tendency to push feelings of lack & not-enough-ness on couples that can't afford or don't want to spend their life's savings on their wedding. Then I talked to engaged couples about the sense of entitlement that sometimes settles in the hearts of couples planning their wedding, and last week I talked to the parents of engaged couples about some of the BS stunts I'm seeing them pull. Well, wedding guests, pull up a seat, cus this week we're talking to you. Wedding guests can be some of the most fun people to be around on the wedding day, but some of you need to hear some candid opinions of your look, cus it's not cute. Let's start with the invitation process. A few things my couples and I are BONE TIRED of dealing with. "Can I bring so and so?" Let me demystify wedding invitations for you. Is the invitation addressed to you and so and so? Is the invitation addressed to you and guests? Is the invitation addressed to the You Family? If the answer to these questions are all no, then your answer is no. & you have no right to throw a shit fit because your girlfriend of six weeks was not invited to your 2nd cousins wedding. My couples spend an average of $250-$350 per guest on their weddings (sometimes more), so no, so and so is not invited. "What do you mean, its an adult only reception?" Okay, so let me start with my empathy here. I have a 2 and 3 year old and if I were invited to a family event that was adults only, I would sadly probably have to decline the invitation because anyone who would be able to watch them overnight would be the event. It sucks, I know. But let's be real since I am a mom of 2 preschool age kids... kids are wild cards and often RUIN EVERYTHING! It's not their fault, but they get bored, curious, overstimulated, tired... and they just lose it. So either one of 2 things is going to happen: either you're not going to be able to unwind and have any fun or worse, you're going to anyway and no one is going to be parenting your child. They'll get in the way of the caterer, knock over a speaker, or get into an area of the venue they're not supposed to be. Some of my couples can't imagine their day without this mess and some want no part of it. That is their choice and yours is to either hire a sitter or politely send your regrets. *Texts bride or groom or mother on wedding day* "Can you send me the address? & what time does the ceremony start?" Guys. This is a real thing. I'm actually laughing and rolling my eyes as I type this because I cannot for the life of me wrap my mind around this but literally every single wedding we have at least one person texting - I KID YOU NOT - the couple or their parents questions about logistics. First thing, DO NOT text a bride, groom, or their parents on the wedding day. Period. If you're in the hospital dying, tell them tomorrow. I'm serious. They only get one chance and this & a it burns a fiery rage in me that people have the audacity take that away from them... but I digress... Here are places you can find the answers to these asinine questions long before the wedding day: 1. The Invitation 2. The Wedding Website If you're prone to losing shit (*raises hand*) take a damn picture of it with that phone that never leaves your side, but for the love of everything good in this world, PLEASE be an adult and keep track of your shit and stop bothering (yes, I'll say it for them, you are a BOTHER) my couples and their families with questions they spent good money to communicate to you. Ok, now let's talk about the wedding day. Stop getting in the way of the professional Photographer and Videographer that the couple spent thousands of dollars to capture their wedding day. You will ruin important photos & video shots that cannot be edited. You'll just forever be walking in the frame in the back of the processional. Annoying. On the same note, STOP STICKING YOUR PHONE OUT INTO THE AISLE DURING THE CEREMONY. If you want copies of the professional photos later, just ask, but my bet, all you wanted to do was post the photo on IG/FB and you'll never look at it again, unlike my couple who won't get a photo of their first kiss because you felt the need to get a photo for your story. Stop complaining about everything. I've already told couples that it is not just their day and that I know you've taken time off of work, traveled, bought a new outfit, possibly hired a babysitter, and likely bought a gift to be here and they need to be considerate of that and put a focus on their guests' experience when planning, however, the bitching about the weather, the food, the music, the timeline, the fact that your table is being called last for the buffet... just stop. It's supposed to be a nice day & you're spending the whole thing bitching. Stop drinking too much and being rude to the wedding pros. The number of guests I've had to scold for screaming belligerently at the DJ when the reception ends and he turns the music off is ridiculous. And the number of times I've witnessed one of my assistants or a bartender/server being asked to go up to a guests room with them - I mean - really? Alright wedding guests, I know I've gone in on you quite a bit and I know it's not most of you, but these issues come up enough that I really felt like we needed to address them. Our team and couples love planning a fun & gorgeous day for you to experience, so let's see if we can show some better manners during the process. With Love, Alexis Alvarez

An Open Letter to Parents of Engaged Couples

Dear Parents of Engaged Couples, The past couple of weeks I've been addressing some issues I have with the wedding industry. I started with looking in the mirror and at my peers and then had a loving chat with your children. Today, I'm looking at you. I'm a mom of 2 preschool aged girls, so I want to start by saying that I understand what an emotional experience this is for you. Every wedding I work, I find myself crying in the corner every time there is a sweet parent moment. I can see it so clearly the day that I become you and my 2 and 3 year old little girls are suddenly beautiful women, walking down the aisle. I can see their dance with their dad. I can see me putting on their veils. I see you. However, we need to have a chat about what you don't see. You don't see the heavy burden you have placed on your children with your opinions, expectations and sometimes down right drama. Most of the stress my couples feel is directly (though not always obviously) connected to you. So let's talk about what this is not the time for: This is not the time for you to show off. It's a big day, I know, but it's not the time for you to want to show off your family, your money, your style or anything else to your friends, colleagues, extended family, or frenemies. I have too many couples who talk about how their parent's can't wait to show so-and-so how such-and-such they/it is/are. This is not the time for you to relive your wedding day or make up for whatever you feel like you may have missed. Now, I've already told your child that it is not just their day, but it is still their wedding. We've had (mostly) moms want so badly to recreate their wedding day that they push their daughters/daughters-in-law into things they just didn't want. This is not the time for your drama. You and your brother have unresolved issues from decades past? Fine, but now is not the time for the fighting, arguing, passive aggressiveness. If you cannot get along, do not invite them. If your son/daughter wants to invite them, be an adult and keep your mouth shut. This is not the time for your manipulation. Oh boy. This is the big one. Subtle manipulation, usually in the form of checks, to get what you want. If you're offering to contribute financially to the wedding, it should be without strings. Now, I'll tell your son/daughter that if you've dropped $30K on their wedding day and want to invite a couple of friends from work they need to be reasonable and invite your friends (within reason), but controlling their decisions about the food, their dress, flowers, venues, whatever, because you're paying is not acceptable. Then just don't contribute. This is not the time for your empty promises. This one gets me the most upset. If you cannot show up in whatever way you're wanting to promise, then don't promise. It shouldn't be that hard, but the amount of broken & empty promises I see from parents is sick. PS. Break my couple's heart by not showing up for an important moment when you said you'd be there, we will no longer be friends. Parents, we love you! Honestly, I do. I love my couples parents. I hold moms' hands & give dads' a supportive hand on the shoulder when he looks like he needs it, and I promise to always tell your child when they're being unreasonable, but you have to promise me to stop making this experience all about you. With Love, Alexis

Industrial Bohemian Wedding in a Converted Chicagoland Warehouse

If you're a lover of unity hoops, jewel tones, and all the romance, then Ashley & Ben's industrial-bohemian style wedding they hosted in a converted Chicagoland warehouse is going to give you some serious wedding goals. The Couple Like most modern love stories go, they met online & instantly became best friends. Ben proposed during a trip to Utah. They were there celebrating Ashley's future flower girls' 5th birthday at a Cowgirl themed birthday party. Ben was wearing a flannel and played Justin Timberlake's "Flannel" as he pulled out his grandmother's ring to propose. (Remember the song! It's an important detail for later). She said yes & they got to planning right away. The Vision They knew they wanted to go for an Industrial Bohemian look and wanted the wedding to feel personal and different. Ashley loves a good DIY project (She did so many for this wedding! Can't wait to show you!), but wanted to make sure that the wedding didn't look like Pinterest threw up all over the place. She wanted personal touches that had a purpose. Besides the look, Ashley & Ben said it was important to them that each of their guests feel included & welcomed into their family that day & for there to be an overall sense of unity. Getting Ready Ashley & her small, but mighty bridal party met at a local salon for a morning of mimosas and pampering & returned to the venue (Brix on the Fox) to finish getting ready. Ben & his men went to Main Event for a morning of sports and beer & then return to Ben & Ashley's newly purchased home to finish getting ready. First Look Vibes Ashley & Ben's first look was filled with every single good feel. Lot's of tears and I have the photos as receipts. The Ceremony Once all 200 guests were seated inside the warm candlelit venue, the processional started to the sounds of Vitamin String Quartet. A mutual friend of the couple officiated the ceremony. The couple exchanged vows they wrote themselves, though Ashley couldn't get through hers. All of their guests participated in a unity ceremony together to create the unity that Ashley & Ben wanted to be present at their wedding. Family Vibes at Dinner & a Raging Reception After cocktail hour, guests were seated at tables 40 feet long & Ashley & Ben entered and cut their cake & Ben's surprise Keylime Pie Grooms Cake. They shared a homestyle meal catered by SBR Catering & were treated to a mini cupcake bar for dessert & hot pretzel bar for a late-night snack. After dinner, the party got started with Ashley's dance with her dad, Ben's dance with his mom and the couple opened up the dance floor with their first dance & invited their guests to join them. The music didn't stop til the night was over & neither did the dancing. All The Details So many gorgeous details personal touches made this wedding spectacular. From a giant, stunning unity hoop as the ceremony & then head table backdrop, to the hand-painted lyrics to Flannel by Justin Timberlake (yup, the proposal one) that lined the aisle, to the suspended hoop table numbers that emphasized the unity theme. Planning & Styling: Lillian Rose Events // Photography: Sean Cook Weddings // Venue: Brix on the Fox // Florist: Beverly Phillips // Caterer: SBR Catering // Desserts: Small Cakes // DJ: Tim Hicks

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